Electronic cigarettes are more effective at helping smokers to quit tobacco when they contain nicotine, a review of studies has found.
The review by the international Cochrane Collaboration includes two trials in which smokers were randomised to groups using different kinds of electronic cigarettes or quit-smoking therapy. One of these trials was based at Auckland University, the other in Italy.
An e-cigarette is a battery-powered device which, when the user takes a drag, produces a vapour. They can be run with or without nicotine.
Dr Chris Bullen, an author of the Cochrane review and a researcher on the Auckland University trial, which followed participants for six months, said the trial found 7.3 per cent of those using e-cigarettes containing nicotine had quit tobacco. The quit rate was 5.8 per cent in the nicotine patches group and 4.1 per cent among those using non-nicotine e-cigarettes.
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The nicotine e-cigarettes were a low-nicotine version, delivering 19 micrograms per puff, compared with 49 micrograms for the highest-nicotine version, and 100 micrograms per puff on a tobacco cigarette.
Dr Bullen said the Italian trial used high- and medium-nicotine e-cigarettes. It found that at one year, 13 per cent on the high-nicotine version had quit, compared with 9 per cent on the medium-nicotine version and 4 per cent on the non-nicotine e-cigarettes.